Syria | Obama Authorizes Strikes on ISIS
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- Regional Conflicts Continue Through the End of the Century
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- Several Countries Accuse Assad of Using Chemical Weapons
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- Assad Accused of Launching a Chemical Attack
- Splintering of Opposition, Rise of ISIS Cause Concern
- UN-Led Negotiations Begin in Geneva; Rebels Suffer Setbacks
- Assad Re-elected in a Disputed Election
- Obama Authorizes Strikes on ISIS
- Peace Talks Delayed Again as Civil War Rages On; Another Attempt at Peace
Obama Authorizes Strikes on ISIS
As ISIS intensified its attacks in Iraq, took over large swaths of northern Iraq and Syria, and beheaded two American journalists, President Barack Obama said in September 2014 that he had authorized airstrikes against ISIS and would work with allies in the region to retake areas under ISIS control and decimate the terrorist group, which he has referred to as a "cancer." He was clear that he does not plan to deploy ground troops in the fight against ISIS. He also asked Congress to authorize money to fund and train moderate rebel groups in Syria to aid in the fight, which it did in late September. Obama authorized the airstrikes under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force law, which allowed President George W. Bush to use "necessary and appropriate force" against those involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East—including American citizens, personnel and facilities," Obama said. "If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies." The White House uses the name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Airstrikes began in Syria on Sept. 23, with Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates joining the U.S. in its campaign against ISIS bases and training camps in Raqqa, which is considered the group's capital, and four other provinces. The U.S. targeted another militant group in Syria, Khorasan, whose members make up "a network of seasoned Al Qaeda veterans" and are focused on attacking the U.S., according to U.S. Central Command. The Obama administration made clear that because the U.S. government and the Assad regime were fighting a common enemy, it did not change the U.S. view that Assad should step aside.
In September and October, ISIS laid siege to to Kobani, a Kurdish-dominated town in north-central Syria that borders Turkey, causing about 130,000 Kurdish refugees to flood into Turkey. The U.S. launched airstrikes on Kobani in early October, trying to prevent ISIS from taking over the strategically located town and gaining additional smuggling routes to arm fighters. The influx of refugees created a humanitarian crisis, and prompted Turkey to seal the border with Syria.
After five months of fighting, the Kurds—backed by 700 U.S.-led airstrikes—liberated Kobani from the grip of ISIS in January 2015. The victory came at an enormous cost, as the city was devastated by ISIS militants and the airstrikes. Some 400 Kurdish fighters were killed, and ISIS reportedly lost 1,000 jihadists in the fighting.